Many people I’ve run with over the years keep an eye on their next race. Whatever the distance or strange quirk that entices them, there is a race they are dreaming about. Some are dedicated to the training and pushing their body to the limit while others are excited about traveling to the start line. My interest in races comes and goes, but it’s been mostly gone since 2019.
Looking back, 2018 and 2019 were great years for my racing. In December of 2018, I signed up for a local 5k with work friends. I didn’t train specifically for the race, but was running fast enough that I won a 5k for the first time ever. It wasn’t a huge event, but there were over 200 runners and, for a guy who barely made my high school varsity XC team, that felt amazing. I started off 2019 with new minimalist shoes which worked my calf muscles more and slowed me down a little. I still managed to run a decent 8k and half marathon. In July, I ran a larger 5k. This one had over 1500 runners and I managed to take 3rd behind two NCAA runners visiting from Georgia. Another exciting finish, but I only signed up for the run because work had a bunch of free entries. It certainly wasn’t a race I’d been dreaming about.
I ran a couple of other races that year and they fell into two categories: ones that felt fast, but weren’t that interesting; and one that had held my interest for about a year… but felt so slow. I ran a Ragnar Trail race on Mt Rainier in place of my brother who signed up before moving across the country and I ran a 5k that a friend organized. These were all fun races and I’m certainly glad I did them, but in my mind one of the best parts of a race (or travel… or anything that you plan months in advance) is the excitement of anticipation. It’s what drives the months of planning, preparing, and focus. The only race of 2019 I was anticipating was my first 50 miler and I’d been thinking about it for almost a year.
There were about 80 of us toeing the line at 6am. When the gun went off, I was feeling good, plus a mixture of excitement and nervous, so I went out a bit too fast. Over the first 10 miles, I went back and forth with another guy as the front runner. I knew it was too fast but I was also realizing my legs weren’t going to be the issue, so why not keep going? I was still running my new minimalist shoes. By now, I was used to how they worked my calves. I had trained on roads and some dirt trails. I was ready for the distance. I was not ready for the gnarly gravel that made the trail we ran. By mile 5, the bottoms of my feet were starting to hurt and shortly beyond the 10 mile mark, I watched the other runner drop me as I slowed. There was a lot more walking that day than I expected. By mile 20, it was obvious that I was not going to be anywhere near my hoped-for pace, but I still wanted to finish. The last quarter mile was on a soft forest trail so I managed to look strong at the end. It was a rough day, but like the other races that year, I’m very happy I did it. Even though the race hadn’t gone how I hoped, the excitement of anticipation had kept me going and given me focus which is what I most look for in an adventure or race.
Since then, there hasn’t been a race that got me excited. I’ve done a couple of friendly 5ks but all that excitement of anticipation has been focused elsewhere… mostly with kayaking. Now I’m starting to look around again to see what race might cause that spark that gets me excited again. I’m not sure if it will be running, kayaking, biking, swim-run, or something else entirely. Until I find it, I’ll keep running with friends at group runs and looking for that unique race that I’ll be able to look forward to for months.